Update: I will be on CFAX 1070 Am with host Adam Stirling at 11am Monday September 24th discussing authenticity in political social media and engagement.
You get on a tweetchat thankful for the opportunity to directly engage with a person who has the power to enact change, maybe who will even respond directly to your message and start a conversation – only to find out after the fact, it was a team. The message, or answer to a question, you might reveive (in fact most likely in the following case), was from a communications staffer.
That is the realization after The Winnipeg Free Press revealed Conservative Cabinet Minister Tony Clement was not the ‘Mayor of his own Town Hall’, in fact the majority of responses, accredited to him on his own Twitter account @TonyClementCPC, were via a ghostwriter: (Full article)
During an online chat on the subject of open government, the Treasury Board president, who is a prolific tweeter, had a ghostwriter doing most of the work for him.
Last December’s town hall made federal political history as the first live online chat to be hosted by a cabinet minister using the popular microblogging service.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper once took questions via YouTube, but that experiment was never repeated.
The subject of Clement’s town hall was the Conservatives’ recently launched open government strategy, a three-prong effort which seeks to increase transparency around the official workings of Ottawa.
Clement has been a vocal champion of the strategy, as well as for the increased use of social media by politicians to communicate with Canadians.
He’s regularly ranked among Parliament Hill’s top tweeters and lauded by social media watchers as having a natural touch with the technology.
But when it came to formally engaging with Canadians, bureaucracy ground his freewheeling ways to a stop.
As a founder and moderator of #YYJchat, I admire the guests who can keep up with an often frantic flow of public questions and comments, while keeping disparate topics alive, and responding with personality. However, as Tony Clement MP is the cabinet minister in charge of open government, and a champion of social media interaction between elected officials and the public, the perception he delegated the majority of replies from his Twitter account to others – albeit, his ‘voice’ or message intent – using a moderator flies in the face of authenticity.
There is no problem at all, in my view, of using someone else to do the actual typing work, as long as that is identified. There are well established Twitter protocols for handling such events such as using ^MW (an upper dash, with initials) to identify the responder. This is standard practice for corporate accounts, especially with customer service, to keep track of ‘who said what’. Clement’s team could also have easily used another Government Twitter account to respond to questions on the Minister’s behalf -which would have been more positive, allowing Tony Clement’s own posts to be highlighted in the stream.
The vast majority of people active on Social Media realize it is impossible for a single person to respond thoughtfully and directly to potentially thousands of questions and comments in a 45 minute, national, town hall. Being authentic, and open about WHO is responding is key – and we wonder why trust in governments and politicians is rapidly eroding.
The annual Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention is set to start Monday Sept. 24th in Victoria BC, with this year’s conference theme being ‘Communications’ (UBCM Theme Page). A great topic, and long overdue, but it begs the question – where is the communication?
Communications that are highly developed and ever changing is the way of the future. Through blogging or tweeting, community consultation via Facebook, or podcasts and online video of key announcements, there are more ways than ever to connect with the community.
As local governments explore the potential of these tools, the basic questions of good governance remain: are we hearing what the community is saying, and does the community hear what we are saying?
This year’s Convention theme is around communication. Whether it’s with local residents, other levels of governments, or our teenager at home, this year’s focus will be on improving these relationships by examining how we relay our messages and how we receive feedback.
So, where are the public events? The Tweet chats, G+ Hangouts, Facebook interaction and live events seeking public opinion on how the public and local government can best interact? There is nothing on the UBCM website, or through their social media accounts. It seems a huge opportunity has been missed by the organizers of UBCM to create interactive events, inviting the public for their ideas, comments and questions – and use that feedback as part of a resolution.
In that light, #YYJchat (See Victoria Wave for details on future and past chats) has decided to dedicate this coming Tuesday’s chat to UBCM, with an extended two hour format, and live from the Bengal Lounge (@TheBengalLounge) at the Fairmont Empress Hotel, next to the Victoria Convention Centre. Since YYJchat began in May this year we have brought MPs, MLAs, Mayors, councillors and more to the local and regional ‘Twittersphere’, providing an opportunity for authentic engagement with the public.
We will be joined with primary guests City of Victoria Councillor Shellie Gudgeon (@ShellieGudgeon) and local business owner Derek Sanderson (@The Island IT), and reaching out to UBCM delegates to join us, share their thoughts on the conference, and what it means to be a politician in the Social Media age.
#YYJchat will begin at 6:30pm and finish at 8;30pm – we welcome your comments and questions to the guests. Just follow the hashtag, and join in.